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4G: A Beginner’s Guide


Words: John Cartwright

What is 4G?

Most of you will have probably heard “4G” or “LTE” somewhere, and wondered what it is. “4G” is the fourth generation in mobile internet, a step up from 3G, which we all currently use this for internet access while we are out and about. “LTE” is the technology behind 4G and stands for Long Term Evolution – that’s all you really need to know about that.

How much better is it than 3G?

While you’d be lucky if you got higher than a 5 megabits per second (Mbps) download speed on a 3G network, you’d be unlucky if you got less than double that on 4G. Most of the tests done on 4G in the UK put download speeds between 25-40
Mbps; expect them to slow somewhat as the airwaves get congested.

When can I get it?

At the moment, the only network with 4G is EE, a rebrand of Everything Everywhere (T-Mobile and Orange). When Ofcom (the network regulator) auctions frequencies used by analogue TV to networks next year, we’ll quickly see other networks launch their own 4G services.

Where can I get it?

Unfortunately, for the time being 4G is going to be fairly scarce. EE’s 4G launches in 16 cities: Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Derby, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Nottingham, Newcastle, Southampton, and, thankfully, Sheffield. Remember outside of these cities you’ll be on 3G, and EE plans further expansion by 2013.

What can I get it on?

You’ll need a new phone due to the new aerials needed. While EE’s selection seems quite limited right now, the major players seem to be present. You have the high-end:

• Apple iPhone 5
• HTC One XL
• Samsung Galaxy Note II
• Samsung Galaxy S III
• Nokia Lumia 920
And the mid-range, for the more budget-conscious:
• Huawei Ascend P1
• Nokia Lumia 820

You can also get it on the cellular versions of the recently updated iPad and the newly announced iPad mini.

Expect there to be more devices announced later. Pricing varies based on the phone and the data allowances you want, however they are considerably more than the equivalent 3G rates, and will most likely continue to be until other networks start competing. At the moment, then, it’s probably a good idea to wait unless you can afford the price increases or are a compulsive early adopter.

 


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